Gov. Beverly Perdue's proposed budget would mandate cuts far larger than what UNC system officials say they can handle.
Perdue calls for a 4 percent budget cut on top of the 2 percent reduction already mandated by the General Assembly in its 2010-11 budget already approved.
That could result in the elimination of 1,200 positions across the UNC system, half of which will be from the faculty ranks, UNC President Erskine Bowles said Tuesday in a written statement.
"The inevitable result would be further increases in class size and fewer course offerings, the elimination and reduction of student support programs, and the elimination of critical administrative positions tied to academic and financial integrity," Bowles said.
Last year, 935 positions were eliminated as the university cut $162.5 million in spending for the current year.
"We were hoping for a smaller cut because we feel we've given more than our share in the previous [year's] budget," said Hannah Gage, chairwoman of the UNC system's Board of Governors. "But this is just the start of the process. We'll be over there working hard to convince the legislature our needs are legitimate and there is no excess."
When eliminating faculty positions, campuses will have to weigh the value of non-tenure track professors and instructors, many of whom teach the introductory courses that serve large numbers of students, said Judith Wegner, chairwoman of the UNC system's faculty assembly.
"If the campuses end up reducing those positions, the students will really be feeling it," said Wegner, a law professor at UNC-Chapel Hill.
Perdue's budget does include funding for enrollment growth and need-based financial aid, two of the UNC system's other top priorities.
And Perdue also wants to scrap a law crafted a year ago directing tuition revenues to the state's general fund.
The UNC system and its campuses protested the move a year ago, saying it crippled campuses to whom the revenue traditionally has gone. The system has lobbied hard for the change, and Perdue apparently has been swayed.
Under Perdue's recommendation, tuition revenues would return to the campuses.
Here's Bowles' entire statement, released today.
As our state struggles to work its way out of this deep economic recession, affordable access to higher education has never been more important to North Carolina’s economic future. We are therefore grateful that Governor Perdue has recommended full funding for our projected University enrollment growth and need-based financial aid for next year. We are also pleased that the Governor has supported the Board of Governors’ alternative to legislatively mandated tuition increases for 2010-11.
The alternative plan places less of a burden on in-state students, and the funds generated by the tuition increases would stay on the campuses to provide more need-based financial aid, help improve retention and graduation rates, and meet other critical campus needs.
On the other hand, we are deeply disappointed in the magnitude of budget cuts that the Governor was forced by economic circumstances to recommend for the University, particularly since we have cut more than our fair share throughout this budget crisis. Over the past four years, we’ve made difficult changes to make sure that we are using every State dollar as efficiently as possible.
In the current fiscal year, the University took permanent budget cuts totaling $162.5 million, including the elimination of 935 positions. In order to protect our Academic Core, nine out of every ten positions we eliminated were administrative jobs. In fact, we permanently reduced our administrative budgets by 18% in a single year. In addition to those cuts made by the General Assembly, the holdbacks imposed on the University by the Governor in the current year have been substantial.
Even though we account for only 13% of the State’s appropriations, the University has absorbed 29% of the budget reversions imposed across all of state government, bringing the total cuts to our budgets this year to almost $300 million.
The General Assembly’s budget for 2010-11 already reduces University budgets by another 2%, and our campuses have been working to identify additional operational efficiencies. But let me be clear: the University cannot continue to bear such a disproportionate share of the budget shortfalls and maintain its academic quality.
The additional budget cuts that the Governor is reluctantly recommending due to economic conditions—new reductions in excess of $100 million—will erode the Academic Core of the University. Seven of every ten dollars appropriated to the University goes straight to the Academic Core, and it is simply impossible to absorb further budget cuts without dramatically affecting the quality of the academic experience for our students. Nearly 1,200 additional positions would have to be eliminated, and nearly half of them would be faculty positions.
The inevitable result would be further increases in class size and fewer course offerings, the elimination and reduction of student support programs, and the elimination of critical administrative positions tied to academic and financial integrity.
While it takes generations to build a great university, it can erode dramatically and quickly if not properly sustained. The budget reductions reluctantly recommended by the Governor will do permanent and substantial damage to the university’s Academic Core and will start us on a path to mediocrity, something North Carolinians have never been willing to settle for in their institutions of higher learning.